On June 24thKOC was a four letter word. As Jazz fans, we tend to over react to every possible situation, but this time he was blowing it and all of us could see it. I tried to tell myself there must be some method to his madness. Every where I turned there was KOC bashing. Everyone knew KOC was off of his rocker, everyone that is except for KOC. He seemed genuinely confident that the Jazz had just made a great move. It was as if he knew something that no one else knew. That is Kevin O’Conner. He has been able to remain calm and take criticism, while quietly going about business making moves that have made the Jazz one of the most successful teams in the NBA the past decade. KOC has seemed to be two steps ahead of everyone else the entire way and this off season was no different. While the talking heads on local TV and radio were killing KOC for letting Boozer walk, he was acquiring a trade exception from Chicago. While Newspapers and blogs were calling for his head for not drafting a big man, he was drafting what he felt like was the best player available and working behind the scenes on getting a low post force for pennies on the dollar. While fans were upset over the Wes Matthews situation, he was bringing in the veteran leadership that the locker room had been missing. This last week SBNation ranked KOC second best GM in the NBA. (http://www.sbnation.com/2010/7/22/1582380/nba-general-manager-rankings-pat-riley-heat) I thought this was a perfect opportunity to give praise to the man.
When boos rang down at Energy Solutions Arena that night in June, most Jazz fans had lost hope in KOC. The fabled Knicks pick had been used to get a 6’8” white kid from Indiana. It seemed only Siler remembered the most beautiful and underrated thing about the whole situation is that KOC had secured this draft pick in a deal involving Ben Handlogton and Keon Clark. While he didn’t use it draft a franchise player or the next Andrew Bynum, after watching summer league and with his other moves, it looks like he made the right pick. Looking back I would definitely rather have him than Cole Aldrich and his platform shoes, Xavier Henry and his contract disputes, and Patrick Patterson and his tendency to disappear for games at a time. KOC must have known that there would be better big man to be had by other means than what the draft had remaining. Picking Haywardgives us a solid replacement for Korver. Hayward also has more size and the ability to make plays, giving the Jazz more versatility on the wings. And I think we have all come to the realization that Flash Gordon can save us all.
When Boozer looked like he was gone KFAN almost went into revolt. All you heard was “20-10 guys don’t grow on trees” and “we are losing him for nothing.” Even when KOC came in and got the trade exception, everyone was skeptical that he would ever use it. Then KOC pulled off the Big Al deal. The Jazz now had a 20-10 guy who is younger and bigger than Boozer. He can play center and while he isn’t the shot blocking big man we hoped for, he is better than what we had. KOC made it a Gasol to the Lakers type deal to boot. This is what the Sporting News said when the trade was about to be finalized, “Congratulations to the Utah Jazz. They appear moments away from pulling off the most lopsided trade of the summer. Send all ‘thank you’ notes to the Target Center.” The deal left the T’Wolves with more minutes for Dakro and a pot head (former according to Kahn). It also nets them a couple of protected draft picks (more small forwards and Point Guards) that nobody trusts Kahn with anyway. Side note: If Jazz fans ever start feeling like they need a new GM again, just look at Kahn. I mean the T’wolves could have had a big man rotation of Demarcus Cousins, Al Jefferson, and Kevin Love. Kahn turned that possibility into Darko, Beasley, Love, and Pekovic. Let’s not even get into the fact that the year that he drafted all PGs he passed on Curry and Jennings.
After the first two moves were made, the Jazz clearly needed to focus on the perimeter. Jazz fans were trying to cope with the fact that OMSW had just signed an OMSD (oh my sweat deal) with the Blazers. Yucca man even made a strong case that they should still match and bring him back. We did need his defense and 3 point shooting. When names like Shannon Brown and Roger Mason started floating out there as alternatives, it only made the thought of losing Wes more of a bitter pill to swallow. Then KOC brings in Raja Bell. The Jazz were able to replace what Wes did plus give the Jazz the leadership they need for half of the price. Bringing in Raja Bell made this the most surprising/exciting Jazz off season in history.
I was one who questioned what KOC was doing. I tried to tell myself that he knew what he was doing, that NBA GMs are smart (outside of Minnesota) and that Jazz will find a way to compete. I never would have thought that he would be able to replace 3 rotation players, 2 starters, and the teams leading scorer in one off season. The fact that he did all of that and saved money is mind boggling in the current NBA. All these moves have me more excited for a Jazz season to start than I have ever been. It isn’t even August yet and all I can think about is this next season. KOC made this happen. That is why I believe all Jazz fans should give some praise to the man.